By ALDWIN QUITASOL
“Early attempts at preventing industrial accidents focused largely on machine guarding and safety devices, but it was soon realized that mechanical safeguarding alone was not enough and did little to eliminate the root causes of accidents. Gradually, the human element in accident prevention was recognized along with the need for safety education.” International Labor Organization, Accident Prevention (Geneva, 1983) p.1 ff
Countless work-related accidents happen every year, most of them leading to deaths and permanent disabilities. Whether fatal or non-fatal, serious accidents have catastrophic effects on the lives of the worker-victims and their families.
As the popular saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It may sound trite, but it’s a constant reminder that routine care goes a long way to avoid accidents and illnesses. Many products include warning labels, like cigarette ads and packs that say “Government warning: smoking is dangerous to your health”.
But when it comes to workplace health and safety, precautionary measures are not that prominent. Warning signs are common, but these are not enough to minimize workplace accidents. Even as most workers are generally aware of the hazards on their jobs, most are not fully informed and trained to practice all the necessary preventive and precautionary measures.
The practice of implementing strict occupational health and safety (OHS) standards is a big help. Workers’ education on OHS, maintaining OHS personnel, and giving special attention to workplace safety precautions and safety gadgets, and rescue and first-aid facilities, should be the top priorities. For post-accident cases, employees’ compensation and health care should be ensured.
Poor working conditions inevitably lead to job-related accidents and ailments. Workplaces that assail the workers with loud noise, poor lighting, lack of ventilation, strong vibrations, radiation, congestion, inadequate work tools and gadgets, inhalable dust, toxic fumes and chemicals, are no better than graveyards.
The Labor Code mandates companies, especially those with hazardous work, to guarantee employees’ health and safety through proper protective gear and safety practices. Employers should ensure protection from noise, dust, chemicals, and radiation. They should ensure proper lighting, good ventilation, and a clean environment. They should provide safety gadgets and orient and train the workers on their proper use. They should provide on-site health personnel.
Employers should always bear in mind that the work conditions be made to adapt to the safety of the workers, and not the workers adapting to the workplace. Job hazards should not be merely shrugged off with “Bahala na ang mga manggagawang mag-ingat (It is up to the worker to be careful).”
Every workers’ union or work-based organization should form an OHS Committee whose members are trained in safety education. Continuous organizing and mobilization for humane conditions should be encouraged. #
Next: The right to collective bargaining.